Students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, “I Can’t Breathe Until Everyone Can Breathe.” In this story, author and entrepreneur Gerald Mitchell wrestles with the enormity of the situation in Ferguson and the unjust deaths of so many unarmed Black Americans by police. He takes an honest look at himself to see how he’s part of the problem, and commits to joining others in building a better world of justice for all.
YES! Magazine Article and Writing Prompt
Read the YES! Magazine article by Gerald Mitchell, “I Can’t Breathe Until Everyone Can Breathe.“
Gerald Mitchell feels that the root of the mistreatment and tragic deaths of unarmed Black people is not just racist police practices. The cause also stems from inhumane, exploitative societal practices, like shopping at places that don’t pay their workers enough to support their families, that all of us—consciously or not—participate in and support every day.
We can start acknowledging our problem by realizing that there is always a human being on the other side of our actions. As we are all part of the problem, we also are all part of the solution in gaining justice for Black people and beyond.
Like Gerald Mitchell, dig deep to identify and explain how you personally can treat people more justly. Describe what treating people fairly and humanely looks like to you. How might your actions make a difference where you live (school and community)? In greater society?
The writing guidelines below are intended to be just that—a guide. Please adapt to fit your curriculum.
- Provide an original essay title
- Reference the article
- Limit the essay to no more than 700 words
- Pay attention to grammar and organization
- Be original. provide personal examples and insights
- Demonstrate clarity of content and ideas
This writing exercise meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W. 9-10.3 and W. 9-10.14 for Writing, and RI. 9-10 and RI. 9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text.*
*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an examples.
The essays below were selected as winners for the Fall 2015 Student Writing Competition. Please use them as sample essays or mentor text. The ideas, structure, and writing style of these essays may provide inspiration for your own students’ writing—and an excellent platform for analysis and discussion.
Stay Tuned to Change the World by Cate Landry, Grade 8
Read Cate’s essay about how TV can educate us on the endless opportunities to create change.
A Deafening Silence by Amani Lazarus, Grade 8
Read Amani’s essay about how we can’t stand quietly while others scream in pain, that we must speak for those who have been silenced by social injustice.
Black Girl, White Space by Naomi Blair, High School Junior
Read Naomi’s essay about the prejudice she faces in her AP Class and the experiment she is doing to expose it.
Love: Free of Fear and Judgement by Karen Jordan, High School Senior
Read Karen’s essay about how feeling better in her own skin has helped her see the potential in our society.
Compassionate Communities by Elizabeth Schmidt, Kent State University
Read Elizabeth’s essay about the importance of regaining the depth in our feelings so that we may live with awareness and connect with the rest of the world.
We Want to Hear From You!
How do you see this lesson fitting in your curriculum? Already tried it? Tell us—and other teachers—how the lesson worked for you and your students
Please leave your comments below, including what grade you teach.